Picking up on a Twitter conversation following a blog post by Felicia, creator of The Craft Sessions, the frustration was palpable; with the concept of any of us having to morph our bodies to fit and feel good in our clothes, rather than it being the other way round: our garments should be able to morph to our varied and fluctuating size.
With Layercake, our growing collection of "work-wear", we aim at doing exactly that.
We make garments that nip in places where our measurements don't change as much when our weight (or the garments we wear underneath) fluctuates. And in places where they do, we work with clever shaping, elastic and ties to give our garments some "morphing ability". Our customers may choose to pick our garments to fit them near-skin-tight and that works a treat for some. But the idea behind Layercake is that our garments are so versatile that anyone can walk in and pick an outfit that makes them feel comfortable, happy and special, so they can concentrate on radiating their inner beauty rather than feeling fraught about the implied need to morph their bodies to fit the fabric shells they wear. That is why we also aim for Layercake garments to have an element of "blank canvas". Different people look COMPLETELY different when wearing the same garment. Because it is not the garment that dictates their look, it is their personality, their inner beauty. When a customer sees themselves in the mirror wearing a Layercake garment, they invariably start radiating, they start to shine. And they say "Wow, this is SO ME!" It is because they see themselves rather than the garment. That is the best way a fabulous outfit can serve its wearer: by complementing and celebrating who they are rather than imposing a "look" that the wearer needs to morph into.
The British high street shows a deplorable separation between stores that sell garments up to a UK size 14/16 and stores that sell from size 14/16 upwards. With mail order companies this separation isn't as stark, although there are many mail order companies that clearly design their garments on size 10 frames and then just scale them up to fit up to a size 20/22. First of all, this still excludes a fair number of ladies, but more importantly, a garment design includes multiple decisions about use and drape of fabric, weave, print and the relationship between the weight of the fabric and the swathes of it that are used to cover the frame they dress. Relative dimensions and proportions are what it is all about. So designing a garment that will look fabulous on a size 10 is one thing, but scaling it up to look just as good on a size 28 is not just a case of adjusting panel measurements. The same rules apply when you turn it around. A fabulous size 28 design will look completely different when scaled down to a size 10, if different measurements are the main consideration when scaling down.
I am 5'10" and a UK size 18/20 (= Layercake size 2). Andrea is 5'2" and a UK size 12 (= Layercake size 0). If we design a garment that we can make in 2 sizes that looks great on both of us, then we know we are on to a winner. We will be able to go across all 4 of our sizes (which cover UK size 8 - 28) and we can accommodate customers whose measurements fall outside of this bracket by making one of our "specials". For an additional charge of £20, we make any of our garments with measurement adjustments to accommodate in between sizes or height adjustments. Our customers love us for it and the main reason Layercake keeps growing the number of different garments it offers is that our customers can't get enough of it, they get hooked on the ease with which they get dressed in the morning, and seeing themselves shine when they look in the mirror or in the eyes of the people around them.
The second element of the Layercake offering is kits of make-it-yourself items. Garments and accessories to make and wear that further personalise a Layercake look. Something to buy-and-wear together with something to make-and-wear. Both made to last rather than the throw-away mentality of the ridiculous speed with which high-street brands THINK they need to keep turning over and changing the looks they sell. Some of our customers consider their first Layercake purchase for one or two YEARS before they take the plunge. Invariably, when they do come in to try on a garment, their opening sentence is: "I saw one of your dresses at a show the year before last..." and they continue to explain what it was that captured their imagination. Fast lives, slow wardrobes. Of garments that serve us, that blend and celebrate who we are by never overshadowing us, never swamping us with THEIR look but working hard by wearing hard and feeling like a second skin, like part of who we are. The fibre of our being.
My dream is a rag-tag line of women around the world, whose shapes and sizes are as varied as their backgrounds and personalities, dressed in Layercake and celebrating their slow wardrobes, complementing their bought garments with items they made and wear with pride and confidence. And knowing that at some point we served each and every one of them, introducing them to the fibre of their being and unlocking in them their way to shine.